AAS Names Recipients of 2024 Awards & Prizes
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The American Astronomical Society (AAS), a major international organization of professional astronomers, announced the recipients of some of its 2024 prizes for outstanding achievements in research and education.
The 2024 Henry Norris Russell Lectureship, celebrating a career of eminence in astronomical research, goes to Neta Bahcall (Princeton University) for her central contributions to determining the average density of matter in the universe and establishing the concordance model of cosmology. Bahcall is also recognized for her dedication to astronomical education and her exemplary service to the community.
The Dannie Heineman Prize for outstanding mid-career work in astrophysics is given jointly by the AAS and the American Institute of Physics. For 2024, the prize goes to John Carlstrom (University of Chicago) for his pioneering work on microwave interferometry and his leading role in the development of the South Pole Telescope, which has led to cosmological observations that have improved our understanding of the large-scale structure and behavior of the universe, changing the field for generations to come.
This year's Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy, for outstanding research and promise for future research by a female researcher within five years after earning her PhD, goes to Jennifer Bergner (University of California, Berkeley) for her innovative astrochemical work at the intersection of laboratory experiments, theory, and observations, which has established new pathways to interstellar chemical complexity.
The 2024 Helen B. Warner Prize is awarded for observational or theoretical research by a young astronomer to Carl Rodriguez (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) for fundamental advances on the astrophysical origin of gravitational-wave sources. Rodriguez discerned how repeat mergers of black holes and stars in dense clusters would lead to the existence of massive black holes, a prediction later verified by gravitational-wave detectors. His work has opened new directions in research into gravitational-wave sources and their connection to the formation of both star clusters and galaxies.
The 2024 Newton Lacy Pierce Prize, which is awarded for outstanding achievement in observational astronomical research based on measurements of radiation from an astronomical object, goes to Maria Drout (University of Toronto) for revealing discoveries of the evolution, influence, and end states of massive stars through the study of explosive transients and resolved stellar populations. Drout unveiled a class of rapidly evolving transients and the first known population of intermediate-mass helium stars stripped in binaries. She developed new techniques to identify and characterize evolved massive stars in elusive phases, thereby revising our views on how stars meet their final fates.
Paul Goldsmith (NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory) is receiving the Joseph Weber Award for Astronomical Instrumentation for his pioneering advancements in millimeter-wave astronomy and astronomical receivers, especially his notable development of quasioptics — in which the wavelength of propagating electromagnetic radiation is comparable to the size of the optical components — that underpins much subsequent work in the field.
The 2024 Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize, which is awarded every two years to recognize an outstanding research contribution to astronomy or astrophysics of an exceptionally creative or innovative character, goes to Dennis Zaritsky (University of Arizona) for his innovative observations probing the structure and evolution of galaxies.
Frederick Seward (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian) is receiving the 2024 George Van Biesbroeck Prize, which is awarded every two years to honor a living individual for long-term extraordinary or unselfish service to astronomy, often beyond the requirements of his or her paid position. Seward is recognized for the establishment and implementation of the first open, peer-reviewed Guest Observer program for a Principal-Investigator-led NASA space-based observatory, including developing and refining procedures and policies that later became standard practice for satellite missions.
The AAS Education Prize recognizes outstanding contributions to the education of the public, students, and/or the next generation of professional astronomers. For 2024, the recipient is Charles Liu (CUNY College of Staten Island) for his national and international impact as an enthusiastic astronomy educator throughout his career — including his contributions to informal education via his work at the American Museum of Natural History, his numerous popular science books, and his podcast "The LIUniverse"; as well as his contributions to formal education as a professor and mentor. The award also recognizes his service to the astronomy education community as AAS Education Officer and inaugural Chair of the AAS Education Committee.
The 2024 Chambliss Amateur Achievement Award, which recognizes an achievement in astronomical research made by someone not employed in the field of astronomy in a professional capacity, goes to Dan Caselden (American Museum of Natural History) for his outstanding participation in the Backyard Worlds citizen science projects, including pioneering the application of machine learning to solar neighborhood ultracool dwarf searches; and for the discovery of numerous brown dwarfs that together reshape our understanding of substellar prevalence and diversity in the Milky Way.
The 2024 Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for astronomy writing for an academic audience, specifically textbooks at either the upper-division undergraduate or graduate level, is awarded to Viviana Acquaviva (CUNY NYC College of Technology and CUNY Graduate Center) for the textbook Machine Learning for Physics and Astronomy (2023 Princeton University Press), which provides a useful guide to cutting-edge knowledge and skills at a graduate-student level, packaged in a well-produced and accessible text. Daniel Baumann (University of Amsterdam and National Taiwan University) is retroactively awarded the 2022 Chambliss Astronomical Writing Award for Cosmology (2022 Cambridge University Press), a textbook that provides graduate-level cosmology content with the production and features typical of the best new undergraduate texts.
Special Honors for the 243rd AAS Meeting
The Society’s Vice Presidents select two special invited lecturers that traditionally bookend the AAS’s winter meeting: the Fred Kavli Plenary Lecturer and the Lancelot M. Berkeley–New York Community Trust Prize lecturer.
For the 243rd meeting, the Vice Presidents selected Stephen Taylor (Vanderbilt University) to give the Fred Kavli Plenary Lecture on behalf of the North American Nanohertz Observatory for Gravitational Waves (NANOGrav) collaboration, honoring him and the collaboration for the recent transformative discovery of compelling evidence for a nanohertz gravitational-wave background, identified via more than 15 years of pulsar timing observations.
The Lancelot M. Berkeley–New York Community Trust Prize is awarded for highly meritorious work in advancing the science of astronomy, and this year’s prize goes to Wen-fai Fong (Northwestern University). The annual Berkeley prize winner is chosen by the three AAS Vice Presidents, in consultation with the Editor in Chief of the AAS journals, to honor significant research published within the preceding 12 months. Fong is honored for her leadership of foundational work that is greatly advancing our understanding of explosive astrophysical transients and their host galaxies.
AAS Division Prizes
Most of the AAS’s six subject-specific divisions also award prizes. The Laboratory Astrophysics Division (LAD) recently announced some of its 2024 awardees. LAD’s highest honor, the Laboratory Astrophysics Prize for significant contributions to laboratory astrophysics over an extended period of time, was awarded to Randall Smith (Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian) this year in recognition of his contributions to the field of high-energy astrophysics. Ilsa Cooke (University of British Columbia) was selected to receive the 2024 LAD Early Career Award for her contributions to the discovery of new molecules in space and her work providing a detailed understanding of their reaction mechanisms, thermodynamics, and kinetics through elegant laboratory investigations.
Buchalter Cosmology Prizes
Ari Buchalter (CEO, Place Exchange) is an astrophysicist-turned-entrepreneur who remains keenly interested in cosmology. In 2014 he created the Buchalter Cosmology Prizes to reward new ideas or discoveries that have the potential to produce breakthrough advances in our understanding of the origin, structure, and evolution of the universe beyond current standard cosmological models. The 2023 winners of the Buchalter prizes are as follows: The $10,000 First Prize was awarded to Kyle Boone and Matthew McQuinn of University of Washington for their work entitled "Solar System-scale Interferometry on Fast Radio Bursts Could Measure Cosmic Distances with Subpercent Precision," published in The Astrophysical Journal Letters. Receiving the $5,000 Second Prize are Denis Werth (Paris Institute of Astrophysics), Lucas Pinol (École Normale Supérieure Physics Department; Institute of Theoretical Physics UAM-CSIC; Paris Institute of Astrophysics), and Sébastien Renaux-Petel (Paris Institute of Astrophysics) for their work entitled "Cosmological Flow of Primordial Correlators." The $2,500 Third Prize was awarded to Gabriele Franciolini (CERN), Davide Racco (ETH Zurich; University of Zurich), and Fabrizio Rompineve (Autonomous University of Barcelona; Institute for High Energy Physics - Barcelona Institute of Science and Technology) for their work entitled "Footprints of the QCD Crossover on Cosmological Gravitational Waves at Pulsar Timing Arrays." For more information about these prizewinning articles, see the Buchalter Cosmology Prize website.
Images of the AAS prizewinners are available from Crystal Tinch, AAS Communications & Engagement Coordinator.
The American Astronomical Society (AAS), established in 1899, is a major international organization of professional astronomers, astronomy educators, and amateur astronomers. Its membership of approximately 8,000 also includes physicists, geologists, engineers, and others whose interests lie within the broad spectrum of subjects now comprising the astronomical sciences. The mission of the AAS is to enhance and share humanity’s scientific understanding of the universe as a diverse and inclusive astronomical community, which it achieves through publishing, meetings, science advocacy, education and outreach, and training and professional development.